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Aviation Industry

Volume 690: debated on Thursday 11 March 2021

What steps he is taking to help ensure the recovery of the UK aviation sector following the rollout of the covid-19 vaccine. (913229)

The Government have provided significant financial support to aviation workers and businesses. The global travel taskforce will report in April on a return to safe and sustainable international travel.

Last week, the Chancellor set out the support he is providing to businesses until they can reopen their doors, but although the Office for National Statistics showed that aviation was the worst-affected sector, it was not given a single mention. Does the Minister agree that the support already provided to airports will not be enough to cover them losing many times that amount each month? Is he not missing a trick here both to help the sector to survive and help it to modernise to meet our climate change obligations?

The Government have given the aviation sector approximately £7 billion of support over the course of the pandemic. The Budget we heard last week from the Chancellor extended both the furlough scheme and the airport and ground operations support scheme for another six months. What we are doing to support and help the sector is the global travel taskforce. It is through getting people travelling sustainably and robustly that we will see brighter days ahead.

Duty free arrival was not part of the Government’s post-Brexit consultations, despite industry stakeholders asking for it to be introduced. The Tory Government decision to end VAT-free shopping schemes for travellers will cost hundreds of jobs across Scotland. Establishing arrival duty free outlets could offset some of that. Can the Minister tell the House whether he lobbied the Chancellor prior to that decision? If so, will he continue to push the Treasury to change its view and save jobs?

The hon. Member will understand that there had to be a change on that taxation regime at the end of the transition period. All taxation matters are a matter for the Treasury. They are kept under review by the Chancellor at all times, and I am sure he has heard very carefully what she said.

The future of the aviation sector needs greening, which will bring lower pollution and new high-quality jobs. Will the Minister commit to working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to increase the Aerospace Technology Institute budget, so that we as a country can focus on developing the technology that will support future zero emission aircraft?

The hon. Member is quite right that aviation must play its part in the net zero challenge. It is a challenge, but it is also an enormous opportunity. We are already working with BEIS through the Jet Zero Council and the working groups not only on new airframe types and new technology for aircraft, but on things like sustainable aviation fuel.

It is simply not good enough. The Office for National Statistics confirmed that aviation has been hardest hit. This Government promised a sector deal but then did not deliver, barring a last minute and somewhat diluted version of the uncapped business rates relief available in Scotland. Let us recap: ending VAT-free shopping at airports and refusing to consider arrival duty free; the most indebted aviation sector in the world, now about a third smaller with thousands of jobs gone; and now EU cargo and chartered airlines operating in the UK without reciprocal rights in many EU countries—this Government have utterly failed aviation and its 1 million workers, have they not?

This is a Government who stand foursquare behind aviation, which is a real mark of global Britain. As I said, we have seen approximately £7 billion-worth of support going to the aviation sector. Through the global travel taskforce we will be expanding horizons even further. Most recently, the consultation has been announced on air passenger duty, which I note has not happened in Scotland.

The Minister is strong on rhetoric, but weak on delivery. First, I thank the Secretary of State for writing to me to correct the record after our previous exchange and confirming how few times the Jet Zero Council had actually met.

On this global travel taskforce, the ONS says, as my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) pointed out, that it will take three years for the sector to recovery. The Airport Operators Association is saying five years. What assurances are there that what the workstreams produce—are there any going on at the moment and is it meeting?—will be robustly implemented? We have not seen that so far with other announcements by this Government.

I simply have to disagree with the hon. Member. The first global travel taskforce reported in November, as promised. We had the robust release of the test to release scheme in December in time for the Christmas market. Now it is right that we take stock, look at the whole aviation sector, consult carefully and have a new GTT. We will, as we have said, report to the Prime Minister and publish the reports on 12 April, and 17 May is the earliest date on which international travel can resume. We are working with and meeting and consulting the sector on a weekly and daily basis. It is a major ongoing piece of work very much at pace.